Sightsavers Reports

“Because of me they can read and write”

February 2016
Rita sitting at a desk with a braille typewriter, smiling.

Rita Asaba is a graduate of Sightsavers’ Connecting the Dots programme, which provides vocational training for young people with disabilities.

She now teaches blind and visually impaired students at Kamurasi Demonstration School in Uganda’s Masindi district.

“I had a bad life,” says Rita. We have to strain to hear her: she almost whispers, and she takes her time answering questions. She pauses, before continuing: “I was born blind. My mother died when I was seven years old, I lived with my grandfather after that.

“I didn’t enjoy school, because I was suffering alone. The other children were teasing me. When you are disabled, people take you as though you are not like other people. I felt bad because I couldn’t see a way out.”

Rita sitting at a desk with two students on either side of her.

Living with a disability in Uganda

When Rita was 15, she found out her father was living nearby in Masindi. She went there, but he and her stepmother treated her badly and, as she describes it, “chased me away”.

While she’s telling us this, Rita’s eyes are cast downwards and it’s obviously hard for her to think about it. But as she continues and begins telling us about joining the Connecting the Dots programme, her whole demeanour changes and she starts to smile.

“When I started the programme, life became good. I learned how to knit, how to make something. I already knew braille before joining… so I thought at least with my braille I’ll have a chance to teach others.”

Rita sits with her visually impaired students in a classroom.

Teaching visually impaired children

After going through the programme, Rita was given a start-up kit (like all Connecting the Dots graduates) and began earning a small amount of money from selling her knitting. But she needed to supplement her income, and she had nowhere to live. So Edith, the programme coordinator, also arranged for her to take a live-in job at Kamurasi school teaching visually impaired children.

Rita now spends the mornings teaching her students braille, then she sits in with them during mainstream lessons to make sure they keep up with their peers. When she’s not doing that, she’s making jumpers on her knitting machine, or spending time with friends.

Rita sits, making jumpers on her knitting machine.

“Disability is not inability”

Rita’s journey through the programme to becoming financially self-sufficient has not only transformed her life, but also challenged her family’s prejudice. “Their attitude has changed positively,” she says. “These days they call me when there’s a problem or a meeting at home. It makes me feel good and important, it shows me that my family sees value in me. Now they call, even visit me. All that never used to happen before.”

Attitudes in their community are changing too, Rita continues. “They wonder how a blind girl like me can make a sweater without any flaws. When they see the sweaters I make, they wonder and doubt at the same time. Many make me weave them in their presence and when I do, they are very happy and buy the sweaters from me.”

Rita’s confidence has grown hugely as a result of being part of Connecting the Dots. She feels strongly about the discrimination of people with disabilities in her community: “We can change societal attitudes and perceptions,” she says, “by telling people that disability is not inability – that disabled people too are human beings with rights.”

Among all her achievements – completing the programme, earning an income from knitting, gaining the respect of her family – what she’s proudest of is working with her students and being able to set an example to them, showing them what they can achieve. “All my life I wanted to be a teacher,” she says. “I’m happy I’m working. Because of me they can read and write.”

Rita walking with a student outside with a cane.

“I’m happy I’m working. Because of me, they can read and write.”

Rita walking with a student outside with a cane.

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